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Posted 6/21/2016

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By Sean McBride

Growing up, every student thought they could do a better job running their school than their principal did. If given the opportunity, almost every student would jump at the chance to be principal for a day to implement some big changes. It took a few years, but the Charleston District’s commander and deputy commander both got the chance to be principal for a day at two Charleston County schools.

The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce runs the Principal for a Day program where local business leaders get the chance to shadow the principal of a Charleston County school and vice versa, where the principal will spend a day with the business leader.

District Commander Lt. Col. Matthew Luzzatto spent a day shadowing Dr. Sherry Eppelsheimer, principal at Wando High School. Wando is the largest high school in South Carolina, so this was an excellent opportunity to learn how Eppelsheimer keeps it functioning.

“I was pleased to see how high-quality their programs are, even with such a large student body,” said Luzzatto. “They are highly organized and there’s no deficiency in their organization. It’s encouraging to see how advanced they are in STEM training for their students.”

Students at Wando are getting a much deeper immersion into STEM fields than students in school not all that long ago. Luzzatto was shown how students are running wing shape tests in a wind tunnel, creating molds and models of the muscular system, and using replicated hospital rooms to train for a future in nursing. He was surprised to see how students are getting advanced certifications while still in high school that prepare them for future careers.

“It’s helpful for me as a leader to understand where the future workforce is coming from,” said Luzzatto. “STEM is a big focus for us and this will help us better integrate students into our workforce.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Nathan Molica traveled to Cario Middle School where he shadowed Principal Sharon Randall and spoke about his Army career to a number of classes, such as the design and modeling class where students showed him night light circuitry.

“I haven’t been in a middle school since I was a student, so it was interesting to see the dynamic of the organizational structure of the school,” said Molica. “At Cario, not only each classroom, but each grade does things together as a group, and I can see that as an opportunity for the different floors at our office.”

About a month later, Eppelsheimer and Randall came to the District to shadow Luzzatto and Molica. Much of their day was spent out on our survey vessel talking with partners about our projects. Molica’s goal was to educate them on what the District does versus showcasing his role, because it always changes. Luzzatto felt the same.

“I wanted to show them how much of our job is partnership building and how we work with them,” said Luzzatto. “We wanted to show them our critical balance between progress and protection of social, economic and environmental factors.”

All four of the leaders who participated agreed that the Principal for a Day program was extremely beneficial, opening their eyes to what the other side is looking for. Through the participation of the program, the Charleston District now has a better understanding of how to connect to students through future STEM outreach events and the schools know what organizations in the STEM fields are looking for in their future workforce.